Imagining the Past, episode 6: We Need to Talk Bette and Joan

Jane Caro, Linda Funnell and Ali Alizadeh

In this week’s episode of Imagining the Past, Linda Funnell interviews Jane Caro and Ali Alizadeh about their approach to writing about well-known historical figures: in their cases Elizabeth I and Joan of Arc respectively. Elizabeth I and Joan of Arc have already been the subject of countless books, engendering myth, obsession and various interpretations of their lives. Jane Caro and Ali Alizadeh explain their personal fascination with these famous people and how they were able to offer fresh perspectives on their chosen subject in the session, We need to talk about Bette and Joan: writing about famous figures.

I hope you enjoy this recorded live session from the HNSA 2019 Conference program and don’t forget to Imagining the Past to catch future episodes.

About our speakers

Linda Funnell is co-editor of the Newtown Review of Books, a free online book review founded with Jean Bedford in March 2012. For ten years she was a publisher with HarperCollins, and prior to that Random House. Currently she is a freelance editor and publishing consultant. The authors she has worked with include Colleen McCullough, Geraldine Brooks, Diane Armstrong, Louis Nowra and Steven Carroll. Linda has been a peer assessor for the Literature Board, a mentor for the Residential Editorial Program and has taught courses in publishing, editing and writing for UTS, the ASA and the Writing NSW. 

Jane Caro is an author, novelist, journalist, broadcaster, columnist, advertising writer and social commentator. She appears in the media regularly, including weekly spots on Weekend Sunrise, Gruen Transfer and Sunrise. She writes regular monthly columns for Mt (Management Today) Magazine and the Sun Herald’s Sunday Life. In 2018, Jane received the Walkley Women in Leadership Award. She is the author of three young adult novels about Queen Elizabeth I:  Just Flesh & BloodJust a Girl, and Just a Queen; a book of essays, Accidental Feminists; and edited an anthology of feminist writing, Destroying the Joint.

Ali Alizadeh is an author and scholar. His books include a novel about Joan of Arc, The Last Days of Jeanne d’Arc, described as ‘miraculous’ in The Sydney Morning Herald; ‘extraordinary’ in Australian Book Review; and longlisted for the Australian Literature Society (ALS) Gold Medal. His other books include Iran, My Grandfather, a semi-fictional history of modern Iran; and the collection of poetry Ashes in the Air, shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award. He’s currently working on a novel about the French Revolution, lives in Melbourne, and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Monash University. 

 Greg Johnston has edited and hosts the Imaging the Past podcasts sessions from the HNSA 2019 conference program. It is a treat for those who couldn’t attend our conference at Western Sydney University in October last year to hear some of the panel discussions such as this one. It’s also a chance for HNSA 2019 attendees to catch up on the sessions they missed because they couldn’t be in two rooms at once!

G.S. Johnston is the author of three historical novels – Sweet Bitter Cane (2019), The Cast of a Hand (2015), and The Skin of Water (2012), and a fourth novel set in contemporary Hong Kong, Consumption (2011). The novels are noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels. Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Canberra, Australia.
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